> The 2009 season was one of firsts for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. It marked their first-ever BCS appearance, first outright ACC title since 1990 and their first-ever win in Tallahassee against Florida State, amongst other feats. Despite losing some key pieces to the team, the Jackets will be looking to make it back to the lofty heights they did last season.
Offense - The Ramblin’ Wreck has adapted to Paul Johnson’s spread option offense by producing the highest rushing totals in school history the past two years. Half of that outstanding duo, quarterback Josh Nesbitt, returns after running back Jonathan Dwyer left for the NFL. In fact, their 295.4 rushing yards per game was the highest in the ACC and second-best in the nation. Their total offense (442 yd/g) and scoring offense (33.8 ppg) totals were both best in the ACC and 11th best in the nation.
Nesbitt returns for his senior season after rushing for 1,037 yards in 2009. His rushing total was the highest for a quarterback in Tech history and second highest in ACC history. His 2,069 career yards rushing make him the most prolific rushing quarterback in Tech history and ranks him second in ACC history. Despite only attempting 162 passes and completing 71, Nesbitt threw for 1,701 yards and 10 touchdowns. Combining his rushing and passing totals, Nebitt accounted for over 2,700 yards and 28 touchdowns.
Despite losing their leading rusher in Dwyer, the team does return some experienced backs in Anthony Allen and Marcus Wright, each of whom played in all 14 games last season. Allen returns from last year’s spot at the A-back position after rushing for 618 yards and six touchdowns. Wright was Dwyer’s main backup and rushed for 190 yards and three touchdowns. Allen will look to combine with Nesbitt to become the second consecutive Jackets to each rush for over 1,000 yards after Dwyer and Nesbitt did it last year.
Unfortunately for Nesbitt, his favorite target in 2009, Demariyus Thomas, left for the NFL, leaving a very young wide receiver core for the upcoming season. Last year’s second and third-leading receivers return, but they combined for only 14 catches and two touchdowns. The coaches feef that Stephen Hill has to be a star.
Defense - The defense got a major overhaul in the offseason, bringing in three new coaches, including defensive coordinator former Virginia head coach Al Groh. Groh brings in a new system however, as he favors the 3-4, so it will be interesting to see how the team reacts to the change.
The linebacker and defensive back units comes back as the strongest parts of the defense. The linebackers are led by Brad Jefferson and Steven Sylvester, who finished first and eighth in tackles, respectively. Jefferson racked up 95 tackles, including eight for loss and had two forced fumbles. Sylvester was in on 40 tackles, four for loss and three sacks.
The defensive backfield returns three of four starters from last year squad, including both cornerbacks. One of those corners, Jerrard Tarrant, was a pain for opposing receivers after coming up with 58 tackles, which was fourth on the team. He also added a tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries, two interceptions and a team-high six passes broken up. His partner across the field, Marcus Butler, wasn’t far behind him in all of the stat categories either. Butler finished with 45 tackles, four and a half for loss, two interceptions and three passes broken up. Mario Edwards returns at one safety spot after starting the last five games of the year. He contributed to the cause with 36 tackles and two passes broken up.
The defensive line also returns three starters, including both tackles, Ben Anderson and Logan Walls, as well as end Anthony Egbuniwe. Walls led the returnees with 25 tackles, three for loss, two sacks and a forced fumble. Egbuniwe was right behind him with 19 tackles, two and a half for loss, one and a half sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Anderson was in on 15 tackles, five for loss and two sacks.
Recruiting - The Yellow Jackets bring in 18 kids in this year’s signing class, including 14 from Georgia. They bring in a bunch of studs of defensive studs, including two linebackers and a defensive back. Jeremiah Attaochu had a monster senior season where he had 118 tackles and 14 sacks. They stole Quayshawn Nealy out of Florida after he had 121 tackles (85 solo), 25 tackles for loss, two interceptions and five sacks. Corner Louis Young comes in after being ranked in the top 20 of cornerbacks nationally by both scout.com and rivals.com. One offensive player to keep an eye on is Tony Zenon, who finished his senior season with 2,264 yards and 27 rushing touchdowns.
Schedule - Georgia Tech starts the season with a home game against South Carolina State before going on the road for consecutive games at Kansas and North Carolina. Three of the next four games are as home as they host N.C. State, Virginia and Middle Tennessee State. They travel to Wake Forest between the N.C. State and Virginia games. The team’s next five games will most likely be their toughest stretch as they travel to Clemson, Virginia Tech, host Miami and Duke, before finishing the season with their annual rivalry game against Georgia, this time in Athens.